Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Must-Share

If you've looked at our blog ever, you know that Elizabeth, Brian, and Oliver are very good friends of ours. During our last night in Austin, we joined them at Jessica, Aaron, and Aidan's house, and it was a round of good-byes that was so difficult and emotional that I'm right back to my tears as I type this entry. Anyway, I digress...

We were so excited earlier this summer to hear that Brian was hired at UT Press, but Robin and I immediately said, "Wow, this is going to be a huge transition for him." Brian has been a stay-at-home dad since Oliver's birth in April of 2009. I feel so fortunate to have met Brian back in my UTeach days; he is kind, thoughtful, sincere, and one of the most well-read people I know. Here is the blog post that Brian wrote as he ventures into work-outside-the-home fatherhood. As I've written before, I know so many fathers that demonstrate day after day that they are equal caregivers, not babysitters, and Brian's post is not only well-written, it drives home the necessity of acknowledging that men are capable of being nurturing, loving, attentive parents inside the home and out. I couldn't resist sharing it in it's entirety here, lest some of you not make the leap over to their blog. 

"When I was in high school I had a low rider. It was a brand new, white Honda Civic Ex, dropped, with a loud muffler, and a loud stereo. It was clean, and I was on top of the world. I felt like a celebrity. If you would have asked me then, I would have told you that that was the most fun I’d ever have. Like most seventeen year olds, I was wrong about a great many things. I’m a little older now, and not prone to the same pitfalls that riddled my teenage years, but I will once again unequivocally announce that the last two years are going to be the best years of my life. 

Most anyone who would be reading this blog knows that I haven’t always taken the straightest path. I’ve fallen a few times. To say that Elizabeth and I sat down and made the choice to have me stay home with Oliver would be a lie. I wasn’t doing well at school, and graduation seemed to be getting further away. So, out of necessity, I stayed home with Oliver, worked a couple of nights a week at the bookstore, and tried to support my family in every way that wasn’t financial. It wasn’t a perfect plan, but it was a plan that worked. We ate, laughed, and flourished as a family. I’ve started a new job now, and I love it, but I wanted to take a few minutes to remember what it was like to be a stay at home parent. 

Most days at our house start with poop. Oliver almost always fills his diaper in the night, so one of us gets up and immediately changes him. He doesn’t get terrible diaper rashes, but they come when we don’t get to the dirty diaper fast enough. Diaper changing starts the day fast, and with not much room for anything else. So, the first thing you should know about my two years with Oliver is that I didn’t shower much. Maybe 3 times a week. It bothered me sometimes, but mostly it didn’t matter. After poop comes play. Our little bundle of joy is a morning person. His most energetic, focused play comes right when he wakes up. I would get my coffee, sit down and watch him. You can’t do this at 4 in the afternoon; he’s not really an afternoon baby. But between 6:30 and 8:30 you can watch him explore. These were the times that I felt fully appreciative of this experience. It’s also on one of these days that I realized that I wouldn’t change places with anyone in the world. We all fantasize about being someone else, for me it’s always Michael Jordan or Gertrude Stein, but after these relatively quiet mornings, I’m sure that my favorite thing to be is Oliver’s dad. I wouldn’t exchange it for money, genius, France, or the ability to do a 360 degrees dunk. Although the dunk would be second. 

Then the fear sets in. Elizabeth has gone to work. We waved to her from our dog slobber stained window, cried, and set about our day. Oliver is an active child. He likes to move, and he likes to be outside. This is great, but if I didn’t provide activities or excitement, he’d turn on me quick. Boredom is his most unlikeable state of being. He’s horrible at being bored. At the beginning it was harder. He couldn’t walk, so most parks were above his level. He was also taking two naps a day, so there was a pretty short window between when we could leave, and when we had to be back for eating and sleeping. Every once in a while we went to the nice park in our neighborhood that has only a few drug dealers stationed there, and we walked Town Lake sometimes, but my day almost always included a trip to some store. Grocery stores are an Oliver favorite, he thinks that everyone is there just to wave at him, and sometimes it seemed like he was right. We walked slowly up and down the aisle, talking about Mac & Cheese, and getting our miniscule assortment of six items. We didn’t want to get too much, because then we couldn’t come back tomorrow. It wasn’t efficient, but it was. 

After he got a little older, we lost a nap and ventured into Austin. The Children’s Museum was a hot spot, BookPeople was a must when Miss Staci was singing, and we battled our fare share of peacocks, but the place we visited most was the Science and Nature Center. It had all the characteristics we cherished most: outside and inside areas, shade, water, animals, and dirt. Not to mention, it’s free. The part I love the most about the center is the back trail. If you go to the owl exhibit and keep walking south, you’ll come to a fence, usually open, with a fifteen inch drop-off onto a trail. The trail is completely shaded and serene. There’s almost never anyone else there. We would walk about a quarter mile (probably less) in and come upon a dry creek bed. This bed provided rocks for me to sit on and rocks for Oliver to throw. We’d sit there for an hour or so, drink some water, and practice throwing small rocks at big rocks. I tried to take pictures, but they never came out the way I saw the place in my head.  

We’d get home, and it’d be time for lunch and a nap.  Nap time hasn’t changed much since he was an infant. We cuddle, we read stories, and we sing a song or two. I’ve been at my new job for three weeks now, and I can’t tell you how much I miss putting him down for his nap. He used to read two stories, now he reads three, and is begging for four. We’ll probably move onto longer stories in place of the fourth, but I feel silly complaining about the length of story time. Oliver Finds His Way, Charlie Parker Played Bebop, Art & Max, and Good Dog, Carl are some of my favorites, but I highly recommend The Tin Forest for those prone to sentimentality, like me. After stories, we give the dogs a kiss and a hug, and move to the rocking chair. I used to sing him the ABC’s because it was the only song I was sure I could remember when I was exhausted, and he seemed to like it. Over the last year I’ve been singing him the theme song to Cheers. He and I both like the song, and it’s turned into a duet. Now that he’s a little older, he doesn’t fall asleep in my arms, which was sad, but it’s been replaced with a big hug and kiss. He grabs his bedmates, Pete the Cat, Grover, and a rubber football, and goes to sleep. 

Post nap is Oliver’s toughest time, and I found myself constantly looking to the clock to see when my lovely wife would be home. It was sometimes too hot to go out, and I found myself with no energy to battle him into cloths, into the car, out into the world, and back again in time for dinner. So, we spent afternoons at the house. This meant one thing: Dance Party! I would turn the music up way too loud and we would bounce off the walls until we were too tired to do anything but fall down. I’m sure the neighbors were curious about all those strange sounds coming from my house, but sometimes you just gotta be loud. Some of the favorite selections were Mumford & Sons, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, The Beatles, and Kanye West. But when we wanted to get really loud, and I mean REALLY LOUD, we’d choose Miles Davis, Arcade Fire, or The Tiny Tin Hearts. Lately I’ve been digging through Chuck’s (Elizabeth’s Dad) old records and we’ve been playing a couple of those every day. He’s split between Simon & Garfunkel and Cat Stevens as the most requested. We’ll continue the debates on Saturdays and Sundays.

Elizabeth told me a month ago that I should take the time to enjoy my last few days as a stay at home parent and I tried. But it’s something that no matter how hard you try to take it in completely, it eludes you. The experience can’t be recreated, and it is unequaled by anything I’ve ever done. If you want to get my dad talking about the past, there’s only one way to do it, get his little sister Linda to start the conversation. I remember one particular trip to Mt Charleston with the family. Aunt Linda got my dad talking about something, and it came around to how he got drafted, and how he left school. At the time it was not the plan he had in mind, but without the mistakes, he wouldn’t have become the father and husband he’s become. He said something to the car, but I’ll take it as advice straight to me, “Some of my biggest mistakes have been my best decisions.” I didn’t choose to be a stay at home parent, and it was a necessity built on my mistakes, but it’s the best time I’ll ever have, and I’m grateful to my wife for the sacrifices she’s made, and I’m thankful to Oliver for noticing buses."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Way back when, Robin and I began our efforts to return to Minnesota. Through job applications, interviews, daycare and apartment searches, I failed to realize how hard it would be to say goodbye to so many people that we love so dearly. The past week has been loaded with goodbyes, last times, and lots and lots of tears. I lack the writing skill to appropriately convey just how difficult it will be to walk away from friends, and there are few photos--rather than photograph moments during the past few weeks, I have chosen to participate. However, let it be known that as excited as we are to return to the place that never stopped being home, leaving Austin will be the hardest thing I have done in a very long time.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Austin Goodbye #1-House Pizzeria

Ordered two pizzas: blue cheese and the subterranean. Drank pomegranate-rose Italian soda and 512 IPA on tap.

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Preview of What's to Come

We've had a bustling summer weekend and I will replace this picture with a full post tomorrow, but for now, I just had to share. Lydia has become a swimming superstar, and her confidence and courage in the water is growing each time we visit the pool. Check out her jump!

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Lydia the Songstress

We are so proud that Lydia can carry a tune that we look the other way when the accuracy of her songs isn't so spot-on. Gotta love her ABBs!!! (Stick with it through the ABCs video--nose picking, squirming, and all.)

Lydia Rides Her Bike

Lydia received a balance bike from Grandma Mree and Grandpa Dale for Christmas. At first, it was too big for her, and then she was just plain terrified of sitting on it. Finally, she has taken to riding her bike. Look at her go!

(Yes, she is wearing a helmet while riding her bike indoors. I want helmets to be a habit for her, since I never adjusted to wearing them and detest them to this day.)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Great Migration: Installment Two

Yes, we are really doing it. Last week, I headed to Minnesota for a professional development workshop with two of my new coworkers. While the PD was a bust, the visit proved fruitful for lots of reasons. I was able to meet coworkers and my principal in person, (until now, I had only known them through phone and email conversations), see my new school and classroom, drive my commute (totally manageable), and do a drop-in visit at Lydia's new daycare.

Lots of people have been wondering about our living arrangements. No, our house has not sold yet. Yes, it is on the market. We have had lots of showings, but as our house only has two bedrooms, it takes a pretty specific buyer. We have faith that one will come along, and I promise as soon as it sells, I will shout it from the rooftops. On a related note, showing a house with a dog and a todder: not fun. So far, we have been mostly lucky, but it is impossible to keep the house as pristine as we would like with Lydia and Stanley on the loose. Lots of frantic, last-minute cleaning has ensued, and we have frequented local haunts such as Thunderbird and Cutie Pies while people scope out our home.

While in the Twin Cities, Robin and I discussed a couple options. I looked at some condos for possible purchase, but after thinking about it, we have settled on renting for a year and then buying a house. We don't want to rush into anything or pile on more than we can handle (this move is supposed to be about simplifying, after all), and any house we would be buying would require work upon move-in. I am going to spearhead our rental search in the next few weeks, as Lydia and I will be able to stay with my parents when we move up toward the end of July.

On to the next, yes, Lydia and I will be heading to Minnesota before Robin. He will join us a little over a month later, with one long visit in between. I have to get up to Minnesota for work and because, you know, Minnesota summers are amazing (for the most part), and Texas summers are brutal (for the most part). Cabin time is a must! When we started talking seriously about moving almost a year ago, we knew that the likelihood of all of us being able to move at the same time was slim, and this separation is a difficult yet unavoidable part of the deal.

During my visit, I was able to check out Lydia's new school. I wanted to make sure that the drive between my school and Lydia's daycare wasn't ridiculous (it's not), and that it's not too far from the neighborhood where we hope to settle (it's closer than I thought). I did something that's a huge pain for the daycare but, in my opinion, the best way to make sure a daycare is a good one. I dropped in for an unannounced visit.

I LOVED what I saw. Lydia will be going to the same daycare as her cousin, Ella. (Already, when we talk about Lydia's new school, she says, "I go to new school with my cousin Ella!!) The school is inclusive, meaning that they serve both special- and typical-needs children together in the same classroom. Their mission reads:
Fraser School allows children of all abilities to learn, play and grow side by side...At Fraser School, children with typical needs (without disabilities) and children with special needs contribute to each others’ development in unique and life-changing ways.
We think this will be an amazing opportunity for Lydia, and we are so excited that she will see her cousin Ella on a day-to-day basis. She's pretty excited, too. The teacher-student ratio is fabulous, the facility felt comfortable and welcoming, and we lucked out in terms of location. I think Lydia's going to love it.

Finally, so many people have shown support and excitement for Robin, Lydia, and I as we embark on this crazy moving adventure, but I want to give a special thank you to Kelsey for her very kind and uplifting mention of us in her blog. This process of picking up shop and moving across the country is draining, both physically and emotionally, and her blog entry provided exactly the pick-me-up, affirmation, and encouragement that I needed. Thanks, Kelsey!

Mikey and Mimi: Final Austin Edition

Last weekend, Mike and Brittany came for a final visit before we pack up and leave Texas. We hit SO MANY Austin spots, some classic--Barton Springs, Amy's Ice Cream, El Chilito (classic to us!), some new and exciting, at least to us--East Side Kings, East Side Show Room, Franklin BBQ, and some places we've been dying to show Mike and Britt--Odd Duck, Gourdough's, and Black Star Brewery. We had a fantastic, relaxed time, and of course, Lydia loved time with Mikey and Mimi!

P-Day: Part Two

Awhile ago, I posted about our adventures in potty training. Lydia seemed like she might be ready, so we gave it a go with some mild success. We had a great diaper-free weekend. Then came Sunday. A string of accidents, including one in Lydia's carseat, sent me over the edge. Honestly, I was surprised by my complete inability to deal with the carseat accident, and it caused me to realize that both child AND parent need to be ready for potty training. It takes patience, yo.

Now that summer is underway, and I'm home with Lydia most of the time, I have decided to give it a try again. Starting Wednesday afternoon, we have began Project Potty. My piece-meal plan goes like this: no diapers at home when Lydia is awake, pull-up at naptime and bedtime, attempt to run errands with training pants on (a find through Toddler 411--thickly-lined underwear that manage messes but are uncomfortable should the child have an accident, thereby teaching them to use the potty instead). Strangely, Lydia does best when she's not wearing anything on her bottom, meaning she frequently runs around the house with a dress on and nothing underneath. The girl likes to be free.

Over three days, she's had three accidents, two at home and one while out and about. Two of the three occurred while she was eating sweets, making me think that if she's going to do something she really won't want to stop, we need to anticipate and attempt the potty beforehand.

**Warning: Poop Talk Ahead**
Exciting milestones that make me feel this isn't such a crazy idea: Lydia used the "big girl" potty at Thunderbird, she has been good about using the potty for, uh, liquid and solids as long as she isn't wearing a pull-up, and yesterday while at a playdate at her buddy Dax's house, she used his potty multiple times. No accidents!

Who knows how this will stick, but I feel we're at a new phase in the potty training process. We'll see!